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A & B Class Radio Stations

Video clip synopsis – Liz Jacka describes how the radio industries of the US, UK and Europe were established as either public or commercial broadcasting.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 1min 10sec
Tags - ABC, media, radio, see all tags


A & B Class Radio Stations

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To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

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Additional help.

About the Video Clip


This interview with Liz Jacka was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Liz Jacka is an Author and Professor in Communications Studies for the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney. You can view her full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


Area of study 3. Australian media organisations

This area of study focuses on an analysis of Australian media organisations and the social and industrial framework within which they operate.

Media products are produced within a cultural, aesthetic, legal, political, economic, institutional and historical framework. Their production, distribution and circulation is affected by law, self-regulatory codes of conduct, industry pressures and the practices of particular media organisations. Other factors (for example, sources of revenue, ratings, circulation, ownership and control) influence the nature and range of media texts produced by individual organisations. Consideration of the impact of these factors on media organisations and their products is important in developing an understanding of the production role of different Australian media organisations.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


'A’ & 'B’-Class Radio Stations

The Government set up a two-tiered licensing system for the fledgling broadcast industry. 'A’-class radio stations were funded by listeners’ licence fees collected by the Government, and minimal advertising (program sponsorship). 'B’-class licences were the second type available to potential broadcasters, differing from the 'A’-class in financing structure. 'B’-class licence holders received no revenue from government, but could generate their income by selling airtime to advertisers. Licences were granted for five year periods.

The Australian radio licensing system was later 'celebrated’ as a loose mix of the British system, where the government-funded BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) monopolised the market, and the system that operated in the United States which was driven by commercial interests and advertisers. (Inglis 8)

In 1932 the Government took over licences for all the 'A’-class stations, and contracted the production of radio programs to an organisation called the Australian Broadcasting Company, the forerunner of today’s Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Classroom Activities

  1. Watch the clip and answer the following questions:
    1. What were the two models of radio licensing when radio was starting up in Australia in the 1920s?
    2. What were the main characteristics of each model?
    3. What do you think the implications of each model are?
  2. What do you think were some of the problems you might face if you were setting up a radio station and broadcasting network. Think about areas such as programming, finance, distribution and reach.
  3. Answer the following questions:
    1. What model did Australia choose?
    2. What do you think this has meant for broadcasting in Australia?
    3. Have any media forms other than radio followed this model?
    4. Do you think this model will work for new media forms or for media in the future?

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

Inglis, KS (Kenneth Stanley), “On the Air” This Is the ABC: the Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1932–1983, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp. 5–24.

Miller, T & Turner, G. “Radio” The Media & Communications in Australia, Eds Stuart Cunningham & Graeme Turner, Crows Nest, NSW, Allen & Unwin, 2002, pp. 133–152.